Sports violence refers to any behaviour which causes harm, violates the rules of the sport and is unconnected to the competitive spirit of sport (Terry and Jackson, 1985). Sports violence is motivated by reactive aggression where the ultimate objective is to inflict harm.
Violence is most prevalent in team sports such as football, gridiron football, ice hockey and rugby. Players and spectators are the notable perpetrators of violence in sports. Additionally, violence can also be related to verbal abuse from one team's players, coaches, spectators and even parents toward opposing team's players and fans. The abuse can take the form of racist chants which may result in the opposing team supporters expressing their virulent anger through violent behaviour.
Examples of various forms of violence are: French footballer Zinedine Zidane headbutting Italian Marco Materazzi at the Final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany; tennis player Monica Seles being stabbed by an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf in 1993; figure skater, Tonya Harding calling a hit on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan and boxer Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ears in their 1997 rematch for the WBA Heavyweight Championship.
What can be done to discourage children from embracing and even glorying sports violence?
a) Coaches have to ensure that they do not promote the ideology of 'winning at all costs.' They should recognise and reward improvement (Coakley, 2015). As such athletes should always play within the rules of the game. Additionally, athletes should never be encouraged or allowed to play when injured or ill; such acts can result in serious long term physical, mental and emotional damage.
b) Coaches must use training strategies that foster teamwork. Players have to be encouraged to contribute to the decision-making process by allowing their views and ideas to be heard without fear of any kind of negative repercussion. Teamwork and empowerment foster self-confidence for better performance (Abdal-Haqq, 1989). Additionally, athletes must be conditioned as to how to deal with cyclical periods of success and disappointment.
c) The positive values and norms of team building must be transferred to the field of play at all times. The positive attitudes of athletes may also transfer to spectators. Therefore, the overall impact may amount to reduced violence in sport (Abdal-Haqq, 1989).
d) Parents can have a positive impact on children developing a positive attitude towards sport. They need to be alert to aggressive behaviours. Equally important and related to becoming observant to aggressive cues, parents should be informed on how they can reinforce positive attitudes toward competition (Abdal-Haqq, 1989).
Violence in sport is a strong possibility especially with highly competitive contact team sport as well as the added pressures from spectators, parents and even the media. However, through the involvement of administrators, coaches, physical educators, parents and the media, the prevention or controlling the frequency and seriousness of violent behaviour in sport can be achieved.
"I don't feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning." Michel Foucault.